In December 2015, heavy precipitation (rain and hail) in the northern and eastern regions of Paraguay caused the increase of hydrometric levels of major river basins, causing flooding in several parts of the country. According to consolidated data from the Paraguayan Red Cross, 27,290 families (136,450 people) were affected in 10 of the 27 departments in the country. According to the 28 December report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA), at least 130,000 people across the country were evacuated from their homes. On 23 December 2015, a state of emergency was declared through Act 5561 for municipalities in the departments of Concepción, San Pedro, Misiones, Ñeembucú, Amambay, Presidente Hayes and Central.
At the request of the Paraguayan Red Cross (PRC), the IFRC on 28 December 2015 allocated CHF 255,097 of its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to respond to the emergency, particularly focusing its actions on at least 1,045 families in the San Pedro department where the Paraguay River had overflowed. The PRC emergency operations centre reported that there were 3,950 families affected in the San Pedro department in the San Pedro de Ycuamandiyú district (Puerto Yvapovo, Puerto Santa Rosa, Puerto San Roque, Angelita, Tape Kaaguy and Santo Loma); Antequera (Poroto, Monte Alto and Barranquerita) and Villa del Rosario (Mbopicua and Puerto Amistad). Since then, these households have returned to their homes, but are unable to restart most of their (agriculture, small animal husbandry, sand extraction and the making of construction bricks).
Following a request by the National Society, on 27 January 2016 the DREF operation was amplified and modified to become an international appeal to better respond to the humanitarian needs. The PRC-led Appeal operation focuses on San Pedro, Asuncion and Ñeembucú. The rapid emergency response, which was immediately started, will transition into community preparedness actions. The recovery phase is scheduled to begin soon but some activities will be implemented when the rainy period comes to an end and communities are able to safely return.
As part of the initial DREF operation, the Paraguayan Red Cross conducted rapid and detailed assessments to identify damage and determine needs, psychosocial support (PSS) activities and delivery of food items in San Pedro and Asuncion. This Appeal operation has continued support to these communities by providing essential emergency kits, emergency shelter, food and drinking water to the hardest-affected communities as well as first aid, medical care and the prevention of water and vector-borne diseases and community preparedness. Cash-for-work activities will be employed for post-disaster cleaning of public infrastructure like hospitals while providing basic income to the community. The recovery phase entails support for the reestablishment of clean water systems, operational functioning of health facilities and outreach programmes and the implementation of a cash transfer programme (CTP) and livelihoods development. The operation will consider situations of extreme vulnerability while maintaining coordination with other humanitarian actors in the same areas of intervention to avoid duplicating actions.
In this period, the activities in the Plan of Action were implemented as planned, including those within the context of the emergency in Asunción. The PRC has mainly focused its humanitarian actions in the areas of health, including pre-hospital care, psychosocial support and water actions, and sanitation and hygiene promotion. The delivery of other planned humanitarian actions depends on support for this Appeal. At the time of report writing, the actions to be implemented in the second phase in Ñeembucú were dependent on Appeal coverage and pending further support from Partner National Societies (PNS).
According to weather forecasts by the Paraguay National Department of Hydrology and Meteorology, the heavy precipitation is expected again in April and May. Although the consequences and effects of the November floods have been almost overcome, communities and institutions remain uncertain as to protocols or articulated actions required should this scenario again occur. The emergency can be viewed as divided into two periods: the first from late November 2015 to mid-February 2016, which will be followed by relative calm (characterized by a decrease in river levels and little rain) during the second fortnight in February and all of March. A peak in extreme weather phenomenon is forecast for April to June, the second period.
As of 15 March 2016, the state’s National Emergency Secretariat and the Municipal Risk Management Secretariat have registered 124 collective temporary shelters (CHAT for their acronym in Spanish) in Asunción. The SEN and the municipality are preparing a pilot strategy to relocate 100 families in the port of Asunción, where the first model collective centre will be activated for the second phase of the emergency. This collective centre is expected to be replicated, but for now the socio-economic characteristics of the families who will be housed in this location remain unknown.